It’s funny to recall how kids in middle school determined what was “cool.” I can only attribute this to the kids with older siblings because as an only child these trends seemed to appear out of no where. From rolling the pants of jeans to buying Chicago Bull apparel (even though we living in Phoenix), I could never connect a reason but rather just conformed to the absurdity. I guess it didn’t help to have two parents (love them very much) who had no idea what the concept of cool was. My mom never ventured into the realm and my dad was a nuclear engineer so you connect the dots. I was doomed. My first day of the sixth grade after I moved to a new school, I was sporting a sweater with an Indian in a canoe embroidered on the front. I should have worn a Mr. Goodbody bodysuit instead because it would have had the same effect. Thinking of strange “rules to be cool”, I can’t help but remember the ways these standards could not be faked. I can get away with most anything today but then it was about what you wear, physical abilities and what your current growth rate was. I happened to be a smaller kid with a shoe size of about 5….in women’s. Try finding Bo Jackson Rebox. They didn’t make them in that size so it was all about the Keds. Turns out they were great for running from bullies and I believe they had that in mind when they designed them. I guess this is comparable to girls with their bra sizes. Us late bloomers always have a bond.
Basketball was the sport of choice in middle school. That was perfect because I was as good at this sport as I was with econometrics at age five. I learned that your ability is directly correlated to the order you get picked for a team. It is a humbling situation when the team captains have to argue who they end up with; you or the kid in the wheelchair. I can’t blame them. I mean, it’s pretty bad when someone passes the ball to you and you immediately take the shot, no matter what side of the court, for fear of a dribbling mishap. There’s nothing like watching an 80 pound kid try to chuck the ball from half court. It probably looked as if someone turned up the gravity as soon as it left my hands. Those kids would have had a better shot if they passed to Steven Hawking.
Strangely enough I was always invited to birthday parties. If I want to be a pessimist I guess I can see it from their angle. I was a no talent ass clown of a kid but I was white and nerdy so that meant upper class. If I was in the upper class category this meant better b-day presents. The joke was on them though, because my mom is the worst gift giver in the history of time. I remember a specific present that Brian DeAngelo received from me. It was a Marvel comic toothbrush set with matching rinse cup and soap dish. He gave me the same look as if I re-gifted his own dog.
The parties where bittersweet. On one hand I was invited so that was good. On the other hand it was usually at Sparkles. Sparkles was the local roller rink and it was a place that combined all three cool levels; fashion, growth and coordination. If you want to suck whatever remained of my coolness put wheels on my feet. It’s humbling enough to cling to the wall of the rink but having a catastrophic fall from just standing still is too much for my peers to ignore. I wish I did not fight it but rather accept gravity. Flailing and tap dancing only adds to the hilarity. The growth part was asking for a size five roller skate out loud. Of course I asked for a size eight but I underestimated the skill of the 16 year old behind the skate counter who could judge a shoe size by height and was called out. I hope he’s still working there. I would usually just stick to the video games because I could hold on to the joystick and remain out of sight.
This blog probably sounds pathetic but as high school came I qualified for my “cool card.” I learned how to fight, cuss, catch a football and fell in love with baseball. The point of all this is really to remember how kids are. When I have kids I want them to be happy. I was happy even though I was not cool so I know it’s possible to do so. But what I want to be as a parent is cool. I want to have an idea what the kids are into and have a clue what my kid faces from day to day. Failing to do so can only lead to themed sweaters and toothbrush birthday presents.